Tributes as 'Norfolk son' Sir Timothy Colman dies aged 91

Relaxing at his home at Bixley Manor near Norwich, Sir Timothy Colman who is retiring from the post

Sir Timothy Colman. - Credit: EDP / Archant 2003

Tributes have been paid after one of Norfolk's sons - Sir Timothy Colman - died at the age of 91.

Sir Timothy died on Thursday morning (September 9), surrounded by his family, at his home at Bixley Manor, near Norwich, after a remarkable life.

Part of the Colman's Mustard dynasty, he was also a Royal Navy officer, world record holder, naturalist, businessman, a Knight of the Garter and, through it all, a champion for Norfolk.

He had key roles in establishing the University of East Anglia, the creation of Whitlingham Broad and held roles in a host of Norfolk organisations.

Sir Timothy Colman <correct> looking out over Whitlingham Great Broad
Photo: Bill Smith
Copy: Jon

Sir Timothy Colman looking out over Whitlingham Broad. - Credit: Archant © 2007

Born in Norfolk on September 19, 1929, Sir Timothy was the son of Geoffrey Colman and Lettice Adeane and the great-grandson of Jeremiah James Colman - the creator of Colman's Mustard.

Sir Timothy's father died in 1935, when Sir Timothy was just six years old, with his mother bringing up him and his four brothers and sisters - David, Juliet, Penelope and Russell.

His brother David was killed at El Alamein in 1942 aged 21, the same age that his younger brother Russell died in a railway accident in 1958.

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Sir Timothy was educated at Heatherdown Preparatory School in Berkshire and joined the Royal Naval College in Dartmouth aged 13.

Always a keen sailor - as was to be memorably demonstrated later in his life - that fulfilled a childhood longing to join the Royal Navy.

Sir Timothy Colman

Sir Timothy Colman. - Credit: Colman Family

He served as a midshipman, then a second lieutenant on HMS Frobsiher and Indefatigable and served abroad in Malta and in the Mediterranean, including in Palestine in 1948.

That same year, while on leave from the armed forces, Sir Timothy met Mary Bowes Lyon, the first cousin of the Queen and the daughter of Captain Hon, Michael Bowes Lyon and Elizabeth Margaret Cator, of Woodbastwick.

Relaxing at his home at Bixley Manor near Norwich, Sir Timothy Colman who is retiring from the post

Sir Timothy and Lady Mary Colman. - Credit: EDP / Archant 2003

Secretly engaged for two years, the pair married in 1951.

Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother and Princess Margaret were guests at their wedding at St Bartholomew-the-Great at Smithfields in London.

The couple's early married life was spent in Dorset, with Sir Timothy, who went on to be Lord Lieutenant of Norfolk for more than 25 years, serving in the Royal Navy at Portland.

After Sir Timothy retired from the Navy, the pair moved to Norfolk in 1953, which became the happiest of family homes for their five children - Sarah, Sabrina, Emma, James and Matthew.

Colman family

Sir Timothy and Lady Mary, with children Sarah, Emma, Matthew, Sabrina and James. - Credit: Colman Family

Sir Timothy joined the family firm, then known as Reckitt and Colman, where he progressed to managing the Carrow Works site. He left to manage the family estate at Crown Point.

He became a director of Eastern Counties Newspapers (now Archant), the publishers of the Eastern Daily Press in 1957.

That continued a family link. His grandfather Russell, a Lord- Lieutenant of Norfolk, was instrumental in starting the newspaper group.

He served on the board of Reckitt and Colman from 1978 to 89, was chairman of Eastern Counties Newspapers from 1969 to 1996. He was also on the board of Whitbreads from 1980 to 85 and of Anglia Television Group from 1987 to 94.

He was patron or president of a large number of organisations including the Norfolk and Norwich Festival, the Carnegie United Kingdom Trust, the Friends of Norwich Museums, Norfolk Wildlife Trust, Norfolk and Norwich Horticultural Society, the Royal Norfolk Agricultural Association, English Countryside Commission, Nature Conservancy Council and many more.

He was also a former Justice of the Peace and chairman of the bench.

At the age of 32 he launched an appeal to create a university in Norwich.

In 1962, a year later, £1.3m had been raised and the University of East Anglia, designed by Denys Lasdun, was built later that decade.

Sir Timothy became chairman of the UEA Council and Pro-Chancellor, and was instrumental in the creation of the Sainsbury Centre.

His support for City College Norwich led to him receiving an honorary doctorate from Anglia Ruskin University in 1999.

Sailing was in Sir Timothy's blood. He raced a Dragon called Salar in the Edinburgh Cup and, having first joined the Royal Norfolk and Suffolk Yacht Club in 1948, regularly raced at Lowestoft.

He went on to become president of the club and, in 1979, became the club's first admiral. He also taught his children to sail.

Such was Sir Timothy's love of sailing that he went on to become a world record holder.

Copy pictures of Crossbow on the water 40 years ago.
Sir Timothy Colman recounting the experience o

Sir Timothy Colman's record-breaker Crossbow on the water. - Credit: Colman Family

A chance sighting of an advertisement for a speed sailing competition led to Sir Timothy joining forces with Rod McAlpine-Downie to design and build the catamarans Crossbow I and II.

In boats with designs ahead of their time, Sir Timothy broke the world record seven years in a row, starting with 26.3 knots in 1972 and reaching 36 knots in 1980. It was a record which would last until 1986.

Sir Timothy Colman

Sir Timothy Colman was part of the crew of Crossbow, that set the world speed sailing record in October 1972. - Credit: Steve Adams

His sense of adventure also saw Sir Timothy visit Antarctica and the Falkland Islands in the 1960s, when he travelled with Sir Peter Scott in search of the albatross - a bird which at that point was still relatively unseen.

His family described him as "a naturalist , an ornithologist, a superb shot, a beautiful fisherman and a true countryman."

Art was also important to Sir Timothy. The Colman Gallery at Norwich Castle Museum features as collection of Norwich School watercolour paintings by John Joseph Cotman and John Crome, which his family had donated.

Sir Timothy, who loved to paint, tried to create a Tate of the East in the 1980s. While that did not come to fruition, in the 1990s, the East Anglia Art Foundation emerged off the back of those attempts.

A former High Sheriff, he served as Lord-Lieutenant - the Queen's representative in Norfolk - from 1978 to 2004, succeeding Sir Edmund Bacon.

His family said: "He used the office of the Queen's representative to promote, with huge energy and commitment, cooperation between various groups related to the social cohesion and economic prosperity of his beloved county. "

The Queen arrives at the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital .
Pictured with Sir Timothy Colman.

The Queen with Sir Timothy Colman in 2004. - Credit: EDP / Archant © 2004

When he was made Knight of the Garter in 1996, a hugely proud Sir Timothy said: "As much of my life has been related to Norfolk, I like to regard this honour in part, at least, as a compliment to the people of this county."

Sir Timothy Colman

Sir Timothy was made a Knight of the Garter in 1996. - Credit: Sarah Rose Troughton

In 2007, Sir Timothy saw his idea to create a new broad at Whitlingham, on the edge of Norwich, become reality.

He said it had "turned out even better than I had dared to hope" and today serves as an enormously popular country park.

Not one to sit still in his retirement, he expanded and developed an arboretum at his old family home at Framingham.

Sir Timothy's wife Lady Mary died, aged 88, at the start of the year.

As well as their five children, Sir Timothy leaves 10 grandchildren and 17 great-grandchildren.

His family said: "He was a fount of knowledge , a huge influence on a number of people of all ages, who sought his wise counsel.

"He had a love and huge knowledge of the natural world, but, most importantly he loved his family.

"With his late wife Mary, he created the happiest of family homes at Bixley Manor."

Lady Mary Colman in a purple hat

Lady Mary Colman. - Credit: The Colman Family

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